As the anniversary of September 11th draws near, children may experience a range of new emotions and concerns. They will look to adults for cues on how to react to this devastating event in our country’s history.
Your strategy for handling the subject with your children depends largely on your family’s personal experience with the attacks. You may find it unnecessary to discuss 9/11 with a very young child, but school-age children are likely to face the topic in their classrooms or amongst their peers.
Below are some tips for interacting with your child around this difficult time. Specific language can be found at the end of this article.
- Prepare children ahead of time. Children in elementary grades or higher may benefit from advanced notice. If desired, let them know they may hear conversations about 9/11 in the coming days and that you are here to answer any questions.
- Be honest. Answer questions as truthfully as possible without offering excessive and unnecessary detail. Your child’s age should help determine what information is appropriate to reveal.
- Reassure your children that they are safe. Explain that your family is not in danger and that you are here to protect them. If possible, spend some extra time together.
- Limit television. The media tends to overdo coverage of the event, which can be emotionally draining. Too much exposure can heighten fear, anger, and anxiety.
- Monitor behavior. Does your child seem withdrawn? Is your child acting out or having trouble sleeping? Be on the lookout for changes so you can address them promptly.
- Maintain routines. Make sure that weekly and daily routines are not broken at this time. Consistency provides a sense of security and normalcy.
OPTIONAL LANGUAGE FOR EXPLAINING 9/11 (eliminate details that are too specific for your child’s age):
On September 11, 2001 a very sad and scary thing happened in our country. Some bad people wanted to hurt Americans and decided to crash planes into buildings where lots of people worked. It was a terrible day and many people lost their lives. But many people were also saved by brave police officers, firefighters, and even strangers. It was a time when Americans had to try their best to help and comfort each other.
Even though this happened a long time ago, the day is still very hard for people who were there or who lost someone they loved. You might see people looking sad or even crying. You might hear other kids talking about what happened or sharing stories about friends or family members who were there that day.
You should know that nothing like 9/11 has ever happened here again. Special people are in charge of making sure it never will. I will always protect you and keep our family safe. If you feel scared, you can talk to me and I will answer your questions and help you feel better.